Archives for posts with tag: swimming pools

Here’s a critter we have never seen in our garden before: a baby turtle.

We know turtles live around here and, earlier in the year, Rachel encountered a huge one crossing the road. True to legend, it moved slowly and she had to wait until it was safely on the other side.

I found this little one in a pool skimmer. He (or she, as the case may be) looked somewhat the worse for wear. The combination of chlorine (and other salts) and rapidly swirling water were probably not what it was expecting when it drifted in there.

I relocated the turtle to the ravine beyond the pool and hope that it reunites with its mother.

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I came down to the garden this morning to weed. I had the three things I needed (see May 17, 2014): good conditions (rain two days ago; sunny and warm today); good tools (my two bare hands); and a good mood (what a pleasant way to spend an hour or two after breakfast).

My task was simple and clear and the scope of work small and well-defined (another important element of successful weeding). We’ll be setting out the tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers and summer squash later and I needed only to clear the raised beds and soil mounds of the weeds that inevitably (and spontaneously, it seems) appear in any fertile soil.

This would not be difficult weeding (no dandelions, for instance) and no tools would be required other than my hands. So, why did I end up with a tabletop covered with artifacts?

Well, first there was the coffee mug I brought down with me. It was not strictly necessary but I enjoy coffee in the morning and if I can do something else and drink coffee at the same time, why not?

Then there was the waste bucket. I can’t just throw the pulled weeds on the ground, can I?

Next came the sunblock and insect repellent. Gardening is one of those activities that easily leads to sunburn, especially on such a nice morning and while the temperature is still cool. Also, we humans are not the only ones who enjoy the great outdoors; the bugs were out in legion.

While weeding the east planter, where the peas and root vegetables are already growing, I remembered that I ought to treat the Sugar Snap peas to ward off aphids. Out came the herbal spray.

At about the same time, I came up with the idea for this blog. That meant fetching a pad of paper and a pencil (my favorite way to write when it is practical) and, of course, the camera (what would a blog be without photos?). A second trip back to the basement became necessary when I realized (for the umpteenth time) that I cannot read or write anything without my glasses.

I jotted down some ideas and moved on to the west planter. After a few minutes of gently pulling out the hay that had sprouted there, my nose began to itch. The result? Back inside for a tissue. (Thankfully, the allergens were not so bad that I needed an antihistamine. That would have meant a trip upstairs to the medicine cabinet.)

I finished the west planter and turned my attention to the squash mounds. As I bent down to start weeding, what did I spy but an anchor for the pool cover that had gone missing during the pool’s opening two weeks ago. (What a relief! I was not looking forward to getting it replaced.) I tried screwing it back into its insert (in the concrete pool deck) but I couldn’t really get a grip on it.

So I reluctantly returned to the toolbox to retrieve the large Allen wrench that came with the pool cover and was explicitly designed for this purpose. On returning, though, I found that the anchor would still not twist into its sleeve. Even more reluctantly, I retraced my steps back to the toolbox for lubricant.

Anyway, you get the idea.

By the time I had finished with the diversion and was ready to get back to weeding, the day had warmed and my coffee had cooled. It was time for a drink of water—and yes, another trip inside.

So far, we’ve been lucky.

When we started planning the garden—back in 2011—a location that would keep it secure from animals was a primary criterion. We were mainly concerned about deer, who in our experience will munch on just about everything. But we had also seen beavers, groundhogs and rabbits in the neighborhood and, of course, there are squirrels and chipmunks in large numbers.

We were happy, then, when we chose a spot next to the swimming pool, which is surrounded by a four-foot high picket fence. It won’t keep the deer out if they really want to get in (they can jump up to six feet) but it does deter them and screens the garden from view (they can’t hurt what they can’t see). Similarly, squirrels and bunnies can easily pass between the pickets but the fence seems to be diverting their attention elsewhere.

Later, when we designed and built the raised beds, we kept potentially harmful animals in mind. Our planters are on the high side—almost two feet—which minimizes bending over (my aching back!) and provides comfortable seating, our main considerations. However, the extra height also elevates the plants well above ground level. Coupled with the planters’ bordering trim, which extends six inches above the soil level, there is no line of sight to nearby critters who pass by unaware. (On the other hand, if deer were to enter the pool enclosure, the planters would be at feeding trough height.)

During construction, before filling the planters with soil, we installed a layer of galvanized wire mesh. The hardware cloth forms the bottom of the planter through which water freely drains. But should a gopher or mole decide to attack our vegetable garden from underground, the mesh should prove an effective barrier.

I say “should” because it seems that our luck may be running out.

Up until recently, we had never seen signs of subterranean marauders. Sadly, though, as winter was ending and the snowpack receding, the telltale serpentine humps were revealed, the topsoil pushed up through the dormant grass. Depictions of this in old Warner Bros. cartoons is not an exaggeration. The route map of the gopher subway system was easily identifiable.

At first, the tracks were limited to the lawn areas. Eventually, though, we discovered them leading into the vicinity of the vegetable garden and then right up against the planters (I can imagine the clang as the Goofy Gophers banged their cute little heads into the wire mesh). In one or two spots, the tunnels breached the surface, where apparently the little rascals popped out to get their bearings.

Fortunately, we have not witnessed any carrots or beets disappearing into the ground, pulled from below by hungry rodents. Just in case, though, we will keep a rubber mallet near the planters so we can play an at-home version of the carnival favorite, Whac-A-Mole.

It is the first day of fall (by some, but not all, reckonings; see June 25, 2013) and the weather shows it.  It was rainy and blustery last night, cool and damp this morning.  The frogs, apparently in denial, still swim around the pool but with grimaces on their faces.  The water is cold.  It has been too cold for me lately, too.

There are many, many cherry tomatoes on the Sungold and Black Cherry vines, most of them green.  And most of them have been falling off with each raw gust of wind.  The Sungolds in particular do not enjoy this cooler weather.  Even the tomatoes that turn the characteristic brilliant shade of yellow are about half the diameter of their peak-season counterparts.

In fact, I’m a bit worried about the Sungold vines.  They seem to be infected with some type of disease.  First the leaves, then the stems, and finally the tomatoes themselves turn a sickly shade of brown.  It is an eerie effect, not unlike the moon eclipsing the sun and casting the daytime world into a gloomy twilight.  Unfortunately, it is not a condition that is likely to pass as quickly (or at all).

Warning:  Insect photo below.

Fall returned this week, like an old friend who had been away visiting others for a few months (family in the southern hemisphere, I believe).  It is good to see the autumn come around again and bittersweet to watch as our houseguest, summer, packs up and leaves.  We had some good times these past three months but we’ll have more fun with a different crowd in the months ahead.

The changing season gives me a warm feeling, even while the weather is turning decidedly cooler.  On the one hand, a swim in the pool has almost suddenly lost its appeal (time to close it soon) and I can actually wear long trousers, having faced up to the possibility a week ago.  In the morning, I need a sweatshirt when I go out for a run.

On the other hand, sleeping is much more comfortable.  The air is crisper—although not yet as dry as it will be in winter—and warms up by late morning.  It can be almost as hot as in summer, in an absolute sense, but the heat is usually moderated by cool breezes.  The sun is lower and shade is more plentiful; it provides a handy respite from the still-intense rays of light.  All things considered, this a good time to be outdoors.

Unless you are a vegetable.  Many of the plants have withered away, leaving only bare spots behind.  I’ve already mentioned the shortening day and increasing solar screening by adjacent trees (see August 25, 2013).  Now, with overnight temperatures dropping into the 50s and 60s, the vegetables’ growth rate has slowed to a crawl.  The tomatoes, green beans and squash are still producing but not as much and not as often.

The vegetables are starting to miss their summer companion and will soon be joining its exodus from the garden.

If there was ever any doubt (and there wasn’t), it is gone now:  The cucumber plant at the east end of the row is infected with bacterial wilt.  I yanked it out and tossed it on the refuse pile (which is far enough from the garden to prevent spread of the disease).  I also made sure that the garden snippers—another possible source of cross-contamination—were clean (having a chlorinated pool next to the garden comes in handy sometimes).

So far, there are no signs of it spreading to the other cucumbers (but I will keep my eyes on them).

Around here, the Dog Days of August are preceded by the Frog Days of July.  Early in the month, the amphibians begin to appear in and around the pool.  At first, there are only one or two but by mid-month, their numbers have increased to about a dozen or so.

Most of them are a smaller variety (leopard frogs?), just over an inch long when sitting.  They spend a lot of their time floating at the water’s surface with their limbs extended in a kind of dead man’s float (frogs don’t have necks so they can’t float with their faces in the water).  Often, they are drawn into the skimmers where frequently I find them swirling around in a daze.

When this occurs, I pull them out of there and shoo them into the grass, hoping they will find another body of water to call home.  It is a futile gesture, however, and they almost always return.  Sadly, these small fry end up doing a dead frog’s float after succumbing to the chlorine in the water.

The remaining frogs, of which there is never more than a few, are the larger American bull frogs.  They grow to a size of four to five inches long when sitting—and sit they do.  And sit, and sit, and sit (just like T.S. Eliot’s Gumbie Cats).  They will eventually take a short dip in the water or dive to the bottom for a spell or even take a ride on one of the floating canisters that hold chlorine tablets.  Unlike their smaller cousins, the bull frogs can jump out when they want to and seldom get caught in the skimmers (although it does happen; see September 25, 2011).

At any given moment but especially in the evenings just after dark, two or three of them can be found perched at the edge of the pool deck, pondering the great blue depths of the water.  Sometimes they sing to each other and other times they sit quietly, simply enjoying (it seems) each other’s presence.  Not our presence, though:  When we approach for a late night swim, they squeak testily and hop away.

For the last week, there has just been one bull frog in attendance (well, I think it is the same one), joining us for our pre-bed skinny dip.  This seems to be the case every year and I assume that he (or she, as the case may be; how does one tell?) has chased the others away and claimed our pool as his exclusive province.  Consequently, I call this lone survivor Ol’ Boss Frog (anyone else read Walt Kelly’s Pogo?) and give him his proper respect.